The Balkan Troll of the Month is an individual, a group of individuals or a media outlet that spreads hate based on gender, ethnicity, religion, or other diversity categories. The Balkan Troll is selected based on hate speech incidents identified across the Western Balkans region.
During the month of April, in an interview held on Top Channel’s show “Më lër të flas” (Let me speak), lawyer and public figure Spartak Ngjela made extremely harmful statements when referring to victims of rape and sexual violence. During his interview, Ngjela commented that “women can barely resist a man’s gaze and pretend as if they don’t want to have sex” after which he added that “there comes a certain moment when the woman, after starting to tighten from rape, surrenders from pleasure”. Such narratives justify rape and show that rape culture is very much present and has been normalized in the society. Ngjela’s comments make rape sound as if it is not one of the most severe types of sexual and gender-based violence. Furthermore, he argued that “it’s also a girl’s scheme [as in game] to pretend that she doesn’t want to…” which suggests that women play a game and cannot resist but to surrender to the violence. These statements blatantly undermine the severity of rape and gender-based violence thereby, ultimately sending the message that rape is ‘relative’. This was also the message perpetuated through sensationalistic headlines in the media covering the event.
The interview resulted in numerous reactions on social media coming from journalists, analysts, and media personnel in the country. However, the person most responsible and who should be held accountable for spreading such sentiments is Spartak Ngjela who had little to no regard towards victims of rape and gender-based violence when making such statements. Ngjela, who is both a lawyer and a public figure and therefore, holds a certain degree of influence should not be using his platform to spread harmful sentiments and rhetoric which serve to justify, trivialise, and undermine rape and sexual violence.
Furthermore, Top Channel, a national commercial television network based in Tirana which has a large platform and viewership, should not only monitor what is transmitted from their network but they should be taking action when such narratives are spread. By allowing guests like Ngjela to make such harmful, misogynistic statements like these on its platform, Top Channel inevitably permits and inevitably spreads these views to its viewers. It is statements like these, which go unchallenged and uncontested on TV that can result in damaging and problematic ideas to be formed around rape and gender-based violence.
Rape and sexual violence are an extremely serious matter and not one which should be mocked, undermined or in any way trivialised. Top Channel has both a legal and moral responsibility to monitor what is said and permitted on their platform and to step in in cases like these when extremely harmful sentiments are spread, and statements are made. They should also hold individuals like Ngjela accountable for his actions and behavior which serve to trivialise and question rape and gender-based violence. The relativisation of rape and gender-based violence should never be justified – rape is a crime and any act towards someone else without their consent is a form of sexual violence. Attempts to justify this or to think otherwise should not be permitted and unchallenged.